A group of Maine hikers called the Onesie Crew jumps together at the top of Rumford Whitecap Mountain in western Maine in late November of 2020. Credit: Courtesy of Jason Poisson

If you’re hiking in Maine and see a penguin jumping in the air or a Star Wars character peeking out from behind a tree, don’t be alarmed. It’s just a member of the Onesie Crew.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, five hikers from southern Maine banded together with a mission to get outdoors, have fun and wear their favorite onesies at the same time. Their adventures began on Halloween, and since then, their carefree attitudes and silly photos have brought cheer to people on and off the trails.

“It’s interesting to see people’s reactions as we pass by them on the trail,” Destiny Lavoie of Biddeford said. “People have said they appreciate what we do, the smiles and the joy, and to keep it up.”

The idea for the group was sparked by Danielle Ashley of Brunswick, who on a whim decided to wear her favorite penguin onesie and hike up Puzzle Mountain in western Maine in mid-October, joined by her friend Josh Kane of Portland.

Danielle Ashley strikes a pose in her penguin onesie atop Puzzle Mountain in October of 2020 in western Maine. Credit: Courtesy of Josh Kane

“I did it to get people to smile,” she said. “It’d been such a crazy year.”

Ashley began hiking during the summer of 2019, and she’s glad she did. During the pandemic, it’s been her go-to activity for getting out of the house and having fun while avoiding crowds. To date, she’s clocked more than 250 miles on hiking trails this year.

It was while hiking Puzzle Mountain that Ashley and Kane first met the remaining members of what would become the Onesie Crew. Destiny Lavoie, along with her twin sister, Bethany Lavoie, were hiking with their friend Jason Poisson of Saco. When their gym closed during the pandemic, the three started hiking together for exercise.

The two groups hit it off on the mountain, but it wasn’t until after they’d returned to their respective homes and started chatting online that they decided to get together for a five-person adventure.

“I felt like doing a Halloween hike because I usually travel during Halloween, and with the pandemic, I couldn’t this year,” Ashley said. “I thought it’d be fun to get a group of people together who wanted to do a costume hike.”

The costume part was easy. Inspired by Ashley’s penguin outfit, they all selected creature-themed onesies. Tackling Albany Mountain in Bethel, Ashley and Kane hiked as penguins. Destiny Lavoie hiked Eeyore from Winnie the Pooh. And Bethany Lavoie hiked as Yoda or Grogu from Star Wars, depending on who you ask.

Poisson, who often serves as the group’s photographer, has yet to agree to wearing a onesie — though his hiking companions believe it’s only a matter of time before he caves in and suits up. They’ve suggested a shark onesie or Winnie the Pooh himself, to go with Destiny Lavoie’s Eeyore.

A group of Maine hikers called the Onesie Crew pose while hiking Mount Phillip in Rome in December of 2020. From left to right, they are Josh Kane of Portland, Danielle Ashley of Brunswick, Bethany and Destiny Lavoie, both of Biddeford, and Jason Poisson of Saco. Credit: Courtesy of Jason Poisson

“It’s refreshing to be able to hang out and have some fun,” Ashley said. “I feel very grateful to have met all of them. They’re hilarious. We get along really well.”

“We’re five peas in a pod,” chimed in Destiny Lavoie.

Since Halloween, the group has hiked together nearly every weekend. In addition to exploring hiking destinations in western Maine, such as Rumford Whitecap Mountain and Piazza Rock, they’ve traveled into the Kennebec Highlands to hike French Mountain and Mount Phillip. They’ve also visited the Camden Hills in midcoast Maine.

Sometimes they walk an entire trail in their costumes. Other times they wait until the top of a mountain before suiting up and taking photos that reflect the carefree nature of their adventures.

They jump in the air, attempt various yoga poses and spell out words with their bodies (think YMCA). And by sharing these photos on Facebook, using the hashtag #onesiecrew, they’ve gained a supportive following, mostly through the popular “Maine Hiking” Facebook group.

“I’m surprised about the following it’s got,” Poisson said. “Everyone has backed it up so wholly. We started it for fun and it’s exploded a bit.”

Through online comments, the crew has learned that their posts are inspiring others to get outside with family and friends and dress up in something silly, whether it’s onesies, matching outfits or ugly Christmas sweaters. And in just a few months, hikers have already started recognizing them while out on the trails.

Of course, if you know anything about the Onesie Crew, they’re pretty hard to miss.

The Onesie Crew spells out the word “love” while hiking Streaked Mountain in Paris in December of 2020. From left to right, they are Josh Kane of Portland, Bethany Lavoie of Biddeford, Danielle Ashley of Brunswick and Destiny Lavoie of Biddeford. Credit: Courtesy of Jason Poisson

“People are so serious when they’re headed up a mountain,” Poisson said. “And all the sudden, they see you guys and they start laughing.”

“All the sudden, you look up and there’s Eeyore in the distance, eating blueberries,” Kane added with a laugh.

While the Onesie Crew would love to grow, they’ve decided to keep it as just the five of them on hikes during the pandemic, when keeping group sizes small is so important. But they do encourage others to dress up in onesies and get outside for some fun.

“We plan to keep hiking until we’re waist deep in snow,” Destiny Lavoie said. “Our onesies have plenty of room for a pair of workout tights or sweatpants underneath. We plan to keep going as much as we can during the winter.”

So if you see a penguin rolling around in the snow on a Maine mountain this winter, give it a wave.

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Aislinn Sarnacki

Aislinn is a Bangor Daily News reporter for the Outdoors pages, focusing on outdoor recreation and Maine wildlife. Visit her main blog at actoutwithaislinn.bangordailynews.com.